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The school as crime scene: Discourses on degrading treatment in Swedish schools

Journal article
Authors Nils Hammarén
Johannes Lunneblad
Thomas Johansson
Ylva Odenbring
Published in Power and Education
Volume 7
Issue 3
Pages 272-288
ISSN 1757-7438
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Pages 272-288
Language en
Keywords degrading treatment, bullying, social order, discourse analysis, school policy
Subject categories Pedagogy, Learning, Sociology, Social Work, Law and Society, Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


There is a strong case for stating that during the past decades there has been a shift in perspective when addressing questions of how to handle and preserve social order in Swedish schools. As an institution that has focused on social order and education since the 1990s, the Swedish school system has also become an institution that focuses on social order in terms of law and legal issues. The overall purpose of the article is to explore in which contexts and in what ways degrading treatment is articulated in policy documents that relate to social order in Swedish schools. Methodologically, the authors use a discourse analytical approach. They study how contexts and articulations identified in policy documents relate to discourses of degrading treatment, and thus contribute to an understanding of how degrading treatment as a concept is constituted. Articulated in different contexts and in different ways, the results show that degrading treatment is constituted as a somewhat ambiguous concept – for example, social psychological perspectives are sometimes articulated within a legal discourse. Articulations of degrading treatment in policy documents cannot be comprehended as totally mutually dependent events, but rather as multiple and partly mutually independent events. Accordingly, the authors believe that the significance of degrading treatment is best understood as a conjunction of different articulations, contexts and interests. Additionally, the tendency of schools to treat degrading treatment increasingly as a crime has resulted in changing subject positions. The previous position of ‘the bullied pupil’ is now instead increasingly interpellated and moulded as ‘a victim of crime’.

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